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Film / Glory

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Into the mouth of Hell they charge. Glory the only gain.

"We ran away slaves, we came back fighting men!"
Sergeant Major Rawlins

Glory is a 1989 war drama film, directed by Edward Zwick and featuring an ensemble cast including Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher.

It is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army during The American Civil War, as told from the point of view of its commanding officer, Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick). The 54th was one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African-American men (apart from the officers).

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Inverted, actually. There's only three battles featured, though the training scenes keep the movie from getting too quiet.
  • Action Prologue: The film opens with Shaw's participation in the Battle of Antietam. And boy, is it frenzied.
  • A Father to His Men: Col. Shaw, who was probably the first white man to treat much of the 54th as equals in their entire lives. During their assault on Fort Wagner, he leads the charge with his men following behind.
  • All Are Equal in Death: In the end all the men of the 54th that were killed in the assault on the fortification are shown being dumped in a mass grave by the Confederates, white officers and black enlisted alike. The Confederates meant this as an insult, as officers were generally given honorable burials, but the family and friends of the white officers, especially Colonel Shaw's father, took it as a compliment and the greatest symbol of the equality between whites and blacks.
  • Anachronism Stew: Mild case. For all the massive effort put into authenticity of military hardware to even the tiniest details, the Enfield rifles used by the troops are of a wrong variant, directly stated in the film. When Rawlins starts to distribute the rifles to other soldiers, he reads their serial numbers while doing so. The variant used during American Civil War lacked serial numbers - it only appeared when Enfield was converted into breech-loaded Snider-Enfield rifle, after the war itself.
  • Artistic License Ė History:
    • The US Army banned the use of flogging as a disciplinary measure in 1861, so the scene where private Trip gets flogged is inaccurate, as the movie takes place in 1863. Obviously a by-the-book officer like Shaw wouldn't use a prohibited disciplinary method.
    • The film gives the impression that many men of the 54th were escaped slaves, but in reality nearly all of them were free men living in the North before the war started.
    • Robert Shaw was actually a Captain when he first took command of the 54th, not a Colonel as depicted in the movie. However, he was promoted all the way up to Colonel in the following two months. The film also does not mention or acknowledge Shaw's marriage to Anna Haggerty on May 5, 1863, five weeks before his death at Fort Wagner.
    • The ending text says Fort Wagner was "never taken". While it's true Fort Wagner was never taken by force, it was taken when the rebels abandoned the fort after a long siege. The Confederates had actually abandoned it shortly after their water supply was contaminated by the Union soldier bodies that were buried, leading many to say that, in a way, the 54th and their comrades ultimately did defeat them.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Sharts' crack shooting, on two different levels. First, he only ever shot at small game, having all time in the world to reload his gun afterwards while being at no risk himself. Second, he is part of a line infantry regiment, when it's the volley fire of an entire company that matters, rather than him picking targets. Shaw instantly points out to every other soldier presented why this is only good for amusing them by shooting bottles, making Sharts confuse the order of doing things when reloading simply by putting him on a time pressure and firing a revolver above his head.
  • Badass Army: The 54th Regiment turns into this eventually, and are quite a deadly force to be reckoned with when they first engage with Confederate forces. They even earn respect from other Union troops who earlier mocked them prior to the assault on Fort Wagner.
  • Bad Boss: Montgomery kills one of his soldiers after harassing a white lady. Note that he cared little over the same soldier doing the same to a black woman. Yet he also blames the white woman for "starting it".
  • Bait the Dog: Shaw's regiment joins Colonel Montgomery's regiment for a foraging mission. As Montgomery conceived the idea of a colored Union regiment, Shaw (and the viewers) assume he's progressive and feeling all men are equal. It's soon revealed that Montgomery is extremely racist, and really only sees the merit of a colored regiment as cheap cannon fodder.
  • Barefoot Poverty: The case for many of the black enlistees, and the Jerkass quartermaster thinks it's funny to claim that his armory has no shoes to spare when he's clearly skimming to stock his own larder.
  • The Berserker: Trip fights with reckless abandon, taking on several Confederate troops in rapid succession, which very nearly gets him killed more than once.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the bitter end, the 54th fails to capture Fort Wagner and suffers grievous losses during the battle, including most of the main characters. However, their valor on that day would vindicate the worth of black soldiers with the Northern public and inspire the mass recruitment of thousands more, which helped make the Union's ultimate victory and the resulting destruction of slavery possible.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While the Confederacy is clearly the villain, the film doesn't gloss over the fact that, even though the Union fought to end slavery, it still by-and-large treated black people as second class citizens even within the army by doing things like trying to pay them less than the white soldiers.
  • Black and Nerdy: Thomas Searles, played by Andre Braugher. Although black, he is actually quite educated, offering several other soldiers tutorship in reading using his volumes of Emerson. See also Stereotype Flip.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Shaw threatens to report Harker's shady activities to the war department in order to get a transfer to combat command rather than the 54th being used for menial labor. It works.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Much as Saving Private Ryan did for the World War II genre a decade later, Glory was among the most notable early aversions to Bloodless Carnage in the Civil War genre. The film doesn't shy away from the brutality and bloodiness of the Civil War, punctuated by the camera focusing on an officer getting his head ripped in two by a cannonball during the Battle of Antietam.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Foregone Conclusion, if you know anything about Civil War history.
  • Bowdlerise: There is a version shown in American schools which edits out some of the gorier parts.
  • Break the Haughty: Sharts is very confident about his shooting abilities, until Shaw demonstrates that there's a big difference between shooting small game or bottles with all the time in the world to reload and shooting at enemy troops and reloading before they shoot you first.
  • The Captain: Robert Gould Shaw is a Captain in the Union Army at the beginning of the movie and is promoted to the rank of Colonel upon taking charge of the 54th.
  • The Chains of Commanding:
    • Shaw, Cabot and Thomas, who all were friends prior to the formation of the regiment. Its command structure ends up placing a strain on their relationships with each other.
    • Rawlins glumly realizes the weight of his responsibilities pretty much the moment he's handed his Sergeant Major stripes. When he expresses his reluctance, Shaw understands all too well.
      Rawlins: I ain't sure I'm wanting this, Colonel.
      Shaw: I know exactly how you feel.
  • Character Development: Silas Trip gets the most out of everyone in the film, even getting a Book End showing that he's come a long way.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • While the regiment is in training, Drill Sergeant Nasty Mulcahy berates Thomas and demonstrates his weak bayonet technique to his fellow soldiers by seizing his rifle as he tries to stab him with the bayonet and hitting him with the rifle butt. Later, during the battle on James Island, Thomas demonstrates his increased proficiency by using his bayonet to save Trip's life. At the end, during the charge on Fort Wagner, Thomas uses Mulcahy's technique against a Confederate soldier attempting to bayonet him.
    • Likewise, after the 54th receives its first shipment of rifles in basic training, Private Jupiter Sharts shows off to the cheering admiration of his fellow soldiers. In response, Col. Shaw gives the private a stern wake-up call about how being a good squirrel hunter and being in combat are leagues apart—by making Sharts reload while he fires a revolver directly behind the man. Sharts panics almost instantly and can't reload. Fast forward to the Battle of James Island; Private Sharts is shown calmly but quickly reloading in an active combat zone while being charged down by a yelling Confederate soldier with a bayonet. He finishes reloading just in time to deliver a killshot at point-blank range.
  • Cherubic Choir: Utilized throughout the musical score, courtesy of the Boys Choir of Harlem. An in-universe Cherubic Choir also greets the 54th in South Carolina, singing "My Country 'Tis Of Thee".
  • Colonel Badass: Matthew Broderick plays a Real Life Colonel Badass; in this case Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the son of Boston abolitionists, who commanded one of the Union Army's first black regiments in the Civil War.
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: The Jerkass quartermaster refuses to give black men shoes. Eventually Shaw loses his temper with him, pulls rank, and forces him to hand the equipment or else. The 54th subsequently gets a whole mountain of boots.
  • Creator Cameo: The man at the end who yells "Give 'em Hell, 54th!" is the screenwriter Kevin Jarre.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The 54th Regiment deals some in the early battles they're put in. They're on the receiving end of one however, during the battle of Fort Wagner.
  • Cute Mute: The drummer boy that Rawlins reassures at Ft. Wagner. It's All in the Manual, however.
  • Death by Adaptation: The flag carrier whom Trip was loosely based on, Sergeant William H. Carney, did take up the flag and never let it touch the ground during the entire battle. However, Carney did survive despite getting shot twice - something for which he ended up receiving a Medal of Honor.
  • Death Glare: Trip fixes Shaw with one as he's whipped for desertion, not blinking or flinching even as a single tear escapes.
  • Death of a Child: In the aftermath of Antietam, with a cut to the body of a dead drummer boy. Later deliberately invoked right before the advance on Fort Wagner; Forbes dismisses the drummer boys - the youngest members of the regiment - to spare them from the ensuing slaughter. Like most things shown in the film, this really happened.note 
  • Defiant to the End: As the 54th, encounters the cannons aimed right at them, Forbes is last seen pointing his pistol at the cannons ready to go down shooting.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The attitudes of the white soldiers towards the blacks. Even the most tolerant ones express attitudes that today would be considered racist.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant-Major Mulcahy. He's harsh on the soldiers not because he's a racist, but because he doesn't want them to die due to poor trainingnote . Particularly, he outright apologizes to Thomas right after first beating him during bayonet drill training, making it clear he meant it as a demonstration of what he does wrong and why, rather than some form of bullying. His training eventually pays off when the 54th finally gets to see combat.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Trip grabs the flag, despite having refused being the carrier earlier in the film. Even though he makes it only five feet or so, it's the most glorious five feet of his life.
  • Evil Counterpart: Colonel Montgomery's "contraband regiment" is basically a mob used by him and his superior officer to rob Southern civilians.
  • Exact Words: A rare example in the epilogue. It is stated that Fort Wagner was 'never taken' and that is technically true. After the failure to capture it directly, the Union forces stood back and kept it under siege (cutting off its supply lines from Charleston) until the Confederates abandoned it on their own.
  • Family of Choice: "Y'alls the onliest family I's got."
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: When Robert becomes the first main character killed charging Fort Wagner there's a single bell ring, followed by an extended run of Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • For the Evulz: The reason the quartermaster kept the units shoes from them.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who's read about the battle of Fort Wagner will know how it ended for the 54th Regiment—Half the regiment dies or wounded/captured at the end.
  • Frontline General: Colonel, but close enough in the case of Shaw who fights alongside his men on the front lines. Forbes counts as well.
  • General Ripper: A pretty chilling example.
    Shaw: That man is a civilian.
    Montgomery: That man is a Secessionist.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • Colonel Shaw looks on as a Union soldier's wounded leg is hacked off while said soldier is still conscious. The actual hacking is covered by a sheet but we see blood splatter on the sheet as the soldier screams in agony. One could also say Trip's whipping is also an example, though there were several shots of Trip's Death Glare at Shaw while he was being whipped.
    • Notably averted during the Battle of Antietam to begin the movie, when an officer standing near Shaw, has his head ripped apart by cannon fire a far cry from the Bloodless Carnage that dominated most films about the Civil War to that point.
  • Groin Attack: Rawlins kicks a Confederate in the nuts before smashing his jaw with the butt of his rifle.
  • The Hero Dies: As dictated by history, Shaw is killed. Along with him is every other important character.
  • Historical Domain Character: Aside from Shaw and Montgomery, Frederick Douglass makes a cameo.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In reality, Shaw was initially very reluctant to lead a regiment of black men, although he soon came to respect them as fine soldiers (however he was supposedly reluctant because he didn't really believe the 54th would be deployed to the front lines and didn't want to leave his fellow soldiers in his current regiment for a non-combat role).
    • On the other hand, the pay boycott was not the black soldiers' idea, but Shaw's.
  • Historical In-Joke: It was General George Crockett Strong who asked the regiment "If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on", and it was Shaw himself who volunteered "I will."
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Colonel James Montgomery is depicted as a marauding racist, making use of freed slaves to pillage and burn Southern towns. While he did pillage and burn, Montgomery was a staunch abolitionist whose methods actually came from his days as an anti-slavery partisan during Bleeding Kansas. His comment about sweeping secessionists away "like the Jews of old" is Truth in Television (casual, or more than casual antisemitism being as common as racism in the 1860s) but he's never been imputed with the anti-Black sentiments attributed to him in the movie.
    • He did, however, make a highly insensitive speech to the 54th when they came under his command later in the war, suggesting that they were all illiterate ex-slaves rather than the educated freeborns most of them were, and threatening them with charges of insubordination and mutiny for not taking the reduced salary they had been offered.
    • General Charles Harker is depicted as Montgomery's direct superior and the mastermind behind Montgomery's pillaging and burning. The real Harker, by contrast, never sent any of his troops out on raids and never even stepped foot in Charleston, Carolina as in the movie.
  • Home by Christmas: After the 54th's first battle, Shaw learns that General Lee was turned back at Gettysburg. The reporter says that the war can be expected to be over by Christmas.
  • Hope Spot: One occurs during the battle to take Fort Wagner after Colonel Shaw is killed. The surviving soldiers attempt to rally themselves, and perform fairly admirably, taking a portion of the wall...only to then meet even stiffer resistance once they went into the fort.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Thomas after being wounded at James Island, begs Shaw to keep him in the regiment instead of sending him home.
  • If I Do Not Return: Right before the advance on Ft. Wagner, Shaw hands some letters to a reporter, and tells him "If I should fall, remember what you see here."
  • Insult Backfire: Getting dumped in a mass grave with his black soldiers instead of a proper burial usually given to dead enemy officers was meant to disgrace Shaw. He probably wouldn't have had it any other way. His parents and wife felt it was no insult either.
  • Irony: The film opens with a voice-over by Shaw writing a letter to his mother with martial music playing and the Army of the Potomac enjoying their day before preparing for battle. The letter ends with "You mustn't think that any of us are going to be killed. They are collecting such a force here that an attack would be insane." A short while later, the title card appears, "Antietam Creek, Maryland". Shaw just marched into the bloodiest single day in American history.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Quite a few of these.
    • Mulcahy may have insulted and treated the black recruits without mercy, but he is training them for the harsh battles ahead. Thus his insults are just your drill sergeant nastiness, rather than him meaning a single word of it. He's also correct that Shaw's protectiveness of Thomas won't do the man any favors once they are all on the battlefield and Shaw needs to let him be trained properly.
    • Shaw becoming more distant from Thomas. Even though he gets called out for it, officers should not be too overly familiar and chummy with subordinates since it tends to undermine discipline and may have said officer seen as one who plays favorites. Worse, the subordinate in question may be resented for being the Teacher's Pet.
    • Trip may be a hateful guy with a chip on his shoulder, but he isnít wrong that Shaw was essentially given command of the regiment and the high rank of colonel without much experience as an officer at all because his parents happen to be friends with the governor of Massachusetts. A twenty-four year old, especially without any formal military training as an officer, being given such a command today would be unthinkable.
    • Colonel Montgomery burning the village and destroying supplies is technically in line with Ulysses S. Grant's commitment to total war, which was to destroy the Confederacy's ability to fight by destroying homes that, in Grant's view, would otherwise have gone to the support of secession and rebellion. Historians indeed credited total war with ending the Civil War sooner despite Montgomery's Historical Villain Upgrade.
  • Karma Houdini: Montgomery, the guy who forced Shaw to loot and burn Darien, never gets formally punished for it.
    • And in real life, the 54th 'did' eventually come under his command.
  • Knight Templar: Colonel Montgomery. Though it's not discussed in the film he was a staunch abolitionist, and despite his jerkass behavior and racism his extreme actions did contribute to the war in favor of the Union.
  • Last Chance to Quit:
    • The 54th is offered the chance to leave when they hear that the Confederate Army will kill them if they're captured. None of them leave.
    • Shaw drops his cold demeanor towards Thomas briefly before the assault on Ft. Wagner and begs him that he doesn't have to do it. Thomas firmly refuses to bow out.
  • Loophole Abuse: While the Union mandated that only white commissioned officers would the 54th, they never said anything about non-commissioned officers. Thus, Shaw has Rawlins promoted to Sergeant Major in recognition of his leadership skills.
  • Majorly Awesome: Forbes.
  • Manly Facial Hair: The Drill Sergeant Nasty Mulcahy sports an impressive moustache.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The soldiers of 54th are doing their very best to take over Fort Wagner despite heavy loses, ultimately rallying together for the final push inside of it. They face fierce resistance, but seem to be slowly winning more ground. They charge into another position, only to run straight into few cannons loaded with canister shot, already aimed in their direction. The Union soldiers have just enough time to realise how screwed they are, but not enough to do anything about it before the guns fire. Cut to next scene.
  • Match Cut: In the final shown moment of the charge at Fort Wagner, 54th runs straight into Confederate guns loaded with canister shot, which are fired, creating a cloud of smoke. It then transitions into a cloud on the sky the next morning.
  • Mildly Military: At first much of the regiment, specifically Thomas and Major Forbes, act extremely informal. Shaw does away with this.
    • In contrast, Colonel Montgomery's Contrabandnote  troops are an undisciplined pillaging horde, who point out the difference by remarking that Shaw's men march like white soldiers.
    • Montgomery himself is shown going into his "forage" mission wearing a straw hat and his uniform barely put on, further contrasted by Shaw riding right next to him.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Mulcahy, maybe. He definitely uses racist insults when harshly drilling the black soldiers and it would be rare for a white man from that era to not be bigoted to some degree. It's also lampshaded at one point that in that era Irish-Americans were known to have pretty terrible relations with African-Americans. Mulcahy's primary motivation nonetheless seems to be turning the men into soldiers tough enough to deal with horrific battles of the Civil War rather than bigotry. He looks genuinely proud at the parade when he concludes their training. His racist remarks may just be an In-Universe example of Fair for Its Day.
    Shaw: I have no doubt you a fair man, Mulcahy. I wonder if you are treating the men a little hard. (Mulcahy hedges) You may speak freely.
    Mulcahy: The boy is a friend of yours, is he?
    Shaw: Yes, we grew up together.
    Mulcahy: (softly) Let him grow up some more.
  • N-Word Privileges: Completely subverted, as both black and white characters make liberal use of the n-word albeit in different ways. White characters use it when condescendingly talking about blacks; notably, the more sympathetic characters like Shaw and Forbes refrain from using it. Trip uses it in a much nastier way against Thomas to belittle him and gets chewed out for it by Rawlins.
  • NaÔve Newcomer: It's clear from Shaw's first letter at the beginning of the film that he's had little if any combat experience. Being thrust into the Battle of Antietam is a jarring wake-up call.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Shaw. This isn't exactly a good thing, because each time he tries to behave like a gentleman, he's put in some sort of abuse and only by fighting back and using back-hand means he can achieve any of his own goals.
  • Oireland: Mulcahy, complete with his Irish brogue. Being a Drill Sergeant Nasty and combat instructor, he is technically a Fighting Irish, too.
  • Old Soldier: Rawlins if we assume he's a similar age as Morgan Freeman, who was 50 at the time the film released. This makes him strikingly above most Civil War soldiers, who were an average age of 26. On the other hand casualties in the Civil War were so heavy that older men in combat roles was not uncommon.
    • A handful of extras in uniforms are also clearly this, too.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Occurs while Charging Fort Wagner. It's suspiciously similar to Carl Orff's O Fortuna... which was used in the film's trailer. The text is taken from the Requiem mass for the dead, suggesting exactly what kind of situation the soldiers of the 54th are running into.
  • One-Word Title
  • Politically Correct History: In reality, the pay boycott protest was Col. Shaw's idea.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Colonel Montgomery in his Historical Villain Upgrade. Despite his staunch support of the Union his movie version is shown to be an openly racist bigot.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Shaw. Although he had Trip flogged due to his alleged desertion, once he learns that the latter was only trying to find some boots that fit, and he sees the horrible condition his feet were in, Shaw immediately heads out to resolve the issue. He also refuses to accept his pay when he finds out his soldiers are only going to be paid less than white soldiers would.
    • Rawlins as well, making sure that Shaw is aware of various problems the troops are having. This leads to him being promoted to Sergeant Major.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rawlins lays a whopper on Trip, after Trip calls him a "nigger" and "the white man's dog"
    Rawlins: And what are you? So full of hate you want to go out and fight everybody! Because you've been whipped and chased by hounds. Well that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain't dying. And dying's been what these white boys have been doing for going on three years now! Dying by the thousands! Dying for you, fool! I know, 'cause I dug the graves. And all this time I keep askin' myself, when, O Lord, when it's gonna be our time? Gonna come a time when we all gonna hafta ante up. Ante up and kick in like men. LIKE MEN! You watch who you call a nigger! If there's any niggers around here, it's YOU. Just a smart-mouthed, stupid-ass, swamp-runnin' nigger! And if you not careful, that's all you ever gonna be!
    • A Contraband soldier gives a short and very condescending one to Thomas about the burning of Darien.
    "What you lookin' at biscuit eater? Think you're better than me? Think you're my judge? You ain't nothin!" (laughs)
  • Separated by a Common Language: When they first meet the "Contraband" regiment, Thomas has trouble understanding their Southern dialect when they tell him he "march like the bukra (white) soldier" and "every day like kismis (Christmas)". Rawlins has to translate for him.
  • Sergeant Rock: John Rawlins.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: When the men of the 54th are informed they will be paid less because they're a colored regiment, Trip is the first to refuse on principle and leads the others in tearing up their pay stubs. Eventually Shaw rips his own too in solidarity of their protest.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A benevolent example where Colonel Shaw uses his to ensure that he gets the supplies needed for his men such as boots, and later so that they can be used in combat instead of manual labor and raids.
    • The "boots" example may also count as Screw the Rules, I Make Them!, given Shaw's rank relative to the quartermaster. But then, the quartermaster had been screwing the rules himself for some time, without any such cover, just because he thought it was funny.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Shaw, despite his age, had to endure the bloodbath that was Antietam. The battle leaves him constantly jumpy and seeing his men play-act and shoot their rifles causes him flashbacks of men dying around him. He even gets visibly startled when at a banquet and window shutters are getting close, making a sound similar to gunfire.
  • Shown Their Work: Very historically accurate, minus a few small points (most of which fall under artistic license). For instance, the shoes are made as neither right nor left, since it's expected that they'll conform to which ever foot you'd wear them on. Matthew Broderick was also the same age during filming as Shaw himself.
  • Single Tear: Trip during his whipping.
  • Stereotype Flip: Several characters defy the stereotypes of the day. Thomas Searles, a black man from Boston, probably is the most formally educated man in the regiment. You have the white officers, notably Shaw, who are almost totally free of racial bias (though not all of them are like this). Even the old black Sergeant Major, played by Morgan Freeman, surprises a white Union officer when he demonstrates that he actually can, in fact, sign his own name (at that point in history, most Southern blacks — enslaved or free — didn't even know the alphabet, as the movie shows).
  • Storming The Fort: The battle of Fort Wagner at the end of the film. It doesn't go well for the Union troops...
  • Tempting Fate: In the first letter Shaw writes home at the start of the movie Shaw declares that the Union forces have amassed such an army that Confederates wouldn't dare attack them. Antietam turns one one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
  • Title Drop:
    Shaw: How many of them are left?
    (camera pans and reveals that not a single soldier took the Last Chance to Quit.)

    Shaw: (amazed) Glory Hallelujah...
  • Together in Death: Col. Shaw is buried in a mass grave next to Trip and the rest of the 54th. The Confederate soldiers putting him there intended it as an insult, but according to Shaw's father he would've considered it an honor, also making this count as an Insult Backfire.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A group of Confederate cavalry attempt a frontal charge against a formed line of Union riflemen. They are promptly mowed down for their efforts. As soon as the Union troops begin to celebrate their victory, a line of Confederate infantry advance on their position and a much bloodier battle proceeds.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Thomas becomes quite the efficient killer. In Fort Wagner, he's singlehandedly taking out Confederate soldiers. He even becomes a Screaming Warrior.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: How Colonel Shaw seems to treat Thomas, one of his friends from before the war. Major Forbes even calls him out on this at times.
  • Undying Loyalty: The black soldiers are all obligated to obey Shaw's orders, but what really seals their loyalty to him is when he joins them in refusing pay after it is discovered that black soldiers will receive less money than white soldiers.
  • War Is Glorious: Played straight, but not portrayed as incompatible with War Is Hell.
  • War Is Hell: Played straight and subverted at the same time. While the film certainly doesn't sugarcoat the horrors of war, the title of the movie is not misplaced. The men of the 54th were eager to serve, and if they were not always victorious, they proved themselves true soldiers who fought for a worthy cause.
  • Wham Line: "Then you can explain that at your court-martial... after your men are placed under my command!" Shaw might have been willing to deal with the consequences of defying a superior officer himself, but turning the 54th over to a man like Montgomery was unthinkable.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Forbes calls out Shaw many times for his harsh treatment of his soldiers, some of whom are even former friends. Shaw in turn accuses him of insubordination and chickening out.
  • White Male Lead: Colonel Shaw, the white male leader of a unit of African-American soldiers, is the movie's viewpoint character. Justified by the fact that he was the highest ranked officer and the commander, and his surviving personal correspondence was referenced heavily in the film. In addition, much of the information in the film are from the real Shaw's diary, so it's inevitable it would be from his P.O.V. In fact, this trope was noted by the director, who said he did not want to turn Glory "into a black story with a more commercially convenient white hero." His justification for it was that this film was about both Shaw and the 54th, and that the two were inseparable to the story. Like Maj. Winters in Band of Brothers, though he's in charge, he isn't necessarily the main character.
  • Young and in Charge: Shaw is made colonel and given command of a regiment at age 24, largely owing to his family's connections. Though this is also justified given in the context of the Civil War. Due to the heavy casualties both sides sustained it was not uncommon for men of very young ages to be made officers in ways that would be unheard of today.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The officer in front of Shaw in the Battle of Antietam, after he takes a direct hit from artillery.
  • Your Other Left: The soldiers, many if not most of whom had no formal education, had even more trouble than the average volunteer with drills for this reason. Mulcahy chews one of them out with a stock "Don't you know your right from your left!" and then appears genuinely taken aback when the answer is an honest no. He asks how many others also can't and about a third of the hands go up.note 
    • Also, the climatic battle happens exactly the reverse of how it really happened. In the actual assault, the 54th had the ocean on their right hand side, not on the left as in the movie. (This is noted in the commentary, the best location they found was the "wrong way round").
  • Zerg Rush: The 54th do a rare heroic version of this to try and take Fort Wagner and very nearly succeed - but you get to see the horrific results of such a rush straight into heavily fortified defenses. More than half the regiment, including Col. Shaw, are killed, wounded, or captured.


Video Example(s):


Trip's Flogging

The scene that earned Denzel Washington his first Academy Award.

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Main / ATasteOfTheLash

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